Speed Reads


Georgia's 'heartbeat' abortion bill could imprison women for life

Georgia's new abortion bill could have some stunning prison-time consequences for women who terminate a pregnancy.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a "heartbeat bill" into law on Tuesday, effectively outlawing most abortions after a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat, which typically occurs around six weeks. While it does include some exceptions for rape, incest, or a mother's health, it also makes women liable for murder charges if they have an abortion — and could land them in prison for life, explains Slate's Mark Joseph Stern

Under the new law, different murder charges apply to women who terminate their pregnancies in different ways. A woman who self-terminates — something that wasn't punishable under a previous Georgia law — will have technically committed murder and could be imprisoned for life or face the death penalty. Those who get an abortion via a health care provider could be found guilty of being a party to murder, punishable by life in prison.

Meanwhile, women who get legal abortions in other states, or any people who help a woman coordinate an abortion, could see a charge of conspiracy to commit murder and be imprisoned for up to 10 years. Even "a woman who miscarries because of her own conduct — say, using drugs while pregnant," could be charged with second-degree murder and face 10 to 30 years in prison, Stern explains.

As several pro-choice lawmakers and advocates pointed out, the law also neglects the fact that women might not even know they're pregnant at six weeks. That's essentially a two-week-late period, and as anyone who gets a period knows, irregularity doesn't necessarily mean pregnancy.